Monday, January 23, 2017

Rail Freight Group Criticises Costing Projections on HS2 Project

Deep Concerns over Budget Shortfall and Disruption Time
Shipping News Feature
UK – The Rail Freight Group’s (RFG) Chairman, Lord Berkeley, is to raise concerns with the Government which the organisation has over the projected costs for the controversial High Speed 2 rail project. According to the RFG a new cost estimate for Phase 1 of HS2 (from London to the West Midlands) presented to ministers last week, demonstrated that its construction costs were likely to be more than double the Government’s budget of £24.3 billion. The RFG sites the Government’s own Railway Method of Measurement, which it states is currently given a total cost for the initial Phase 1 costs of £54 billion instead of the original projections.

The RFG points out that in a Written Answer on 21 December 2016 by ministers the Government gave a clear commitment to ‘…delivering HS2 within this funding envelope’ of £55.7 billion. Using the Governments own methodology, the RFG states that the total cost projection is in fact more likely to exceed £100 billion. In a statement the RFG said:

”It is grossly irresponsible to start a project costing over £50 billion of public money without a supporting cost analysis that is up to date and credible, in spite of spending over £1billion on consultants’ fees.”

The RFG also criticised the plan published on the 17 January 2017 by the Government for the development of a new HS2 station in Camden, which is projected to take 19 years and cost £8.25 billion. The fact that HS2 can only commit to moving 28% of spoil and 17% of materials in the Camden area by rail will result in up to 1,500 trucks a day for several years trying to get through Camden to and from the construction sites, the organisation says. It attributes this to a refusal on the part of planners to consider and design for rail freight as the primary shipping method for the project, as was done for the Olympic Stadium and the Crossrail project. Lord Berkeley commented:

“This is why I shall again challenge Government during the Report stage of the HS2 Bill in the Lords next week to come clean on costs, and publish a credible estimate for HS2 developed in a manner that complies with Network Rail’s Rail Method of Measurement, before work on the ground starts.

”Given the regular movement of staff from Network Rail to HS2, I wonder whether the cost overruns on the Great Western (six or seven times the original estimate), other electrification projects and now HS2, with a forecast 100% cost overrun, are related. The Rail Method of Measurement has not come a moment too soon, and must be effectively and comprehensively implemented if trust in the rail sector’s is to be rebuilt. “HS2 should be subject to a rigorous and independent audit of the Phase 1 costs before construction starts.”

Photo: This is yet another rail development project which has engendered hostility from the moment it was suggested.